Holy Hour habit reprograms software engineer for the priesthood

by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

North Texas Catholic

May 15, 2017

Dcn. Stephen Hauck assists in giving Holy Communion during his ordination Mass to the transitional diaconate in April 2016. Hauck and Dcn. John Martin will be ordained, God-willing, to the priesthood on May 20, 2017. (NTC photo/Juan Guajardo)

ARLINGTON — Some men can pinpoint their first thoughts of the priesthood to grade school. Others say the words “come follow me” began resonating for them in high school or college.

Stephen Hauck was firmly entrenched in a career as a computer programmer for a wood manufacturing company when he started thinking, “I can do more with my life.”

“I stayed in the field because it paid very well but I wasn’t particularly fulfilled in my work,” admitted the 35-year-old who grew up on Army bases in Germany and the U.S. “If I didn’t show up for work, the worst thing that would happen is La-Z-Boy wouldn’t get parts for their chairs.”

Searching for answers, Hauck began stopping by his parish, St. Maria Goretti, on his commute home from south Dallas. The Blessed Sacrament is available for Adoration inside the Arlington church every day from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“I got in the habit of having a daily holy hour,” said the cradle Catholic. “Instead of sitting in traffic, I got to sit in the quiet and be with our Lord.”

Those moments of silent reflection led to an epiphany.

“I was about to turn 24 and I just knew the job I had wasn’t my life’s purpose,” he explained, recalling his restless frustration. “It just wasn’t enough.”

Hauck quit his lucrative profession and decided to take a vacation to the one place that merged his love of good food, history, and faith — Rome.

“It was right after Pope Benedict XVI wrote his first encyclical, “God is Love” (“Deus Caritas Est”). So, when I got there I picked up an English version and read it,” he continued. “I visited [St. Peter’s] Basilica and got to spend a fair amount of time with our Lord in Adoration. That’s when I started getting a sense of the priesthood in my prayer life.”

Dcn. Stephen Hauck reads the Gospel during a Mass earlier this year. (NTC photo/Juan Guajardo)

After returning home, Father Kyle Walterscheid, diocesan director of vocations at the time, invited him to a Lenten Vocation Program retreat. The Monday evening gatherings included a holy hour, prayer, and a meal.

“The nice part about it was getting to know all the other guys who were discerning as well,” Hauck enthused. “You realize you’re not by yourself and don’t have to make this decision in a vacuum.”

Visiting a seminary and observing the routine of the students cemented his desire to study for the priesthood. Hauck applied to the diocese, was accepted, and became a seminarian in August 2006.

His parents, Vicki and Gerald Hauck — both graduates of the University of Dallas — were supportive but not surprised.

“With four boys, the idea of the priesthood was never too far for my family,” Dcn. Hauck pointed out with a laugh.

The Haucks, who also have two daughters, always encouraged their children to go where God was calling them.

“Making faith part of our decision-making process was something my parents modeled for us in their life,” recalled the appreciative son. “They told us to pray when making hard decisions because God does have a say and wants to have a say.”

While attending St. Joseph Seminary in Covington, Louisiana, Hauck earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy and continued his formation at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston. He was ordained to the transitional diaconate in April 2016 and receives a master’s degree in divinity from the University of St. Thomas in Houston this May. On weekends, the deacon serves a parish near St. Mary’s.

As part of his formation, he spent a pastoral year working at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Pilot Point under the guidance of Father Tom Kennedy.

“Coming from a suburban parish like St. Maria Goretti, it was wonderful to experience that part of our diocese,” Hauck said, referring to the rural parish founded by five German families in 1891. “It was interesting to see what it’s like being a priest in a small town and the challenges connected with that.”

To prepare for his May 20 ordination at St. Patrick Cathedral, the deacon spent time in prayer during the required retreat and is reviewing the rite of the sacrament of Holy Orders.

“But really my preparation has been going on since baptism,” said the soon-to-be-priest. “The parishioners in Houston have been helpful but I’m eager to return home. It means a tremendous amount to me to come back and serve the people of God in the Diocese of Fort Worth.”

The joy of ministry continues to surprise the former software engineer.

“You get to experience very intense moments in people’s lives and sometimes that happens in close proximity,” Hauck explained. “You can baptize a baby in the morning and do a wedding or funeral in the afternoon, and it’s a privilege to do that. Being on this side of the sacraments is very intimate and fulfilling at a level I never would have guessed.” 

ARLINGTON — Some men can pinpoint their first thoughts of the priesthood to grade school. Others say the words “come follow me” began resonating for them in high school or college.

Published (until 12/27/2035)